Las Vegas' most dangerous neighborhood turning around - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Las Vegas' most dangerous neighborhood turning around

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Children mill in the Sierra Oesta neighborhood in northwest Las Vegas. (FOX5) Children mill in the Sierra Oesta neighborhood in northwest Las Vegas. (FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Deadly shootings, drug trafficking and robberies once plagued a small community in the northwest Valley. The neighborhood, located near West Lake Mead and Jones boulevards, had the highest crime rate in Las Vegas, according to police. 

About a year ago, Metro's Northwest Area Command started a project to change that. Some fellow officers considered the area hopeless. However, officers involved in the project said there were too many children in the neighborhood to turn a blind eye to it.

"I've grown up here in Vegas in some of the toughest neighborhoods, and nothing compared to how this was a while back," a resident who identified himself as Isaac said.

"It's a lot better, way better than what it used to be. [It's] quieter; you don't hear gunshots anymore. You still hear the police," resident Roland Kirby said.

Kirby just moved back into the neighborhood after having left decades ago. Blood still stains the driveway where he plays with his 2-year-old son.

"Back in the ‘90s, it was rough. It was really rough. [There was] a lot of fighting, gang-banging, shootings – there was a lot of stuff going on back then," Kirby said.

"I'd spend the night over at my auntie's house for about three days. We'd hear a succession of like two different gunshot battles," Isaac said.

The area is known as the Sierra Oesta community. It's also known as BGs or Baby Ghetto. Eighty-two buildings line five streets.

"This neighborhood has had and continues to have some of the highest firearm-density calls that we have, illegal shooting calls. If you look at the firearms density map, it is the highest in the Valley, but we've reduced it substantially over the past year, since Heroes United began," Metro's Officer Joshua Stark said.

Heroes United was launched about a year ago.

"Let's do something as heroes together, and we pull our resources, pull whatever it is that drive us, and we say, ‘Can we make something better?'" Metro's Lt. John Pelletier said.

Metro's Northwest Area Command brought together a pastor from a nearby church, local philanthropists and property owners.

"The first thing we did was petition the city to get brighter lights. The street lights are bright white LED. You can see everything. People are OK coming back from the store with their groceries. The kids are out playing until well after dark. That's something we never saw before," property owner Mark Asadoorian said.

The next step was painting the curbs red. Police say no-parking zones deter drug dealers from setting up shop in their cars, in turn reducing drug trafficking. Recently, a gate was installed that blocks off Arapa Way.

"The drug dealers, the gang members that come in here to do their drive-by shootings, it's much more difficult for them because they can't just come in, do a shooting and leave real quick. They have to double back, go around. Their chance of being seen or being caught by the police is that much higher," Stark said.

A surveillance camera monitors the community's only entrance around the clock.

"We had a temporary camera that was set up at another intersection within this neighborhood, and it was marked ‘police' all over the place. It was a live feed where we could see what was going on, where we could review footage. Crime dropped dramatically," Metro's Officer Jessica Heredia said.

Heroes United raised $7,000 to pay for the camera. Property owners agreed to pay the monthly bill to transmit the live feed, which is sent to Metro's Real Time Crime Center.

"It's a lot better, and you can walk around without worrying about somebody running up from behind us for whatever – you know, robberies or anything else," Kirby said.

Still, police say their work is far from finished.

"I actually not only felt a sense of safety but a sense that they were actually proactive in trying to reduce the crime rate here in this neighborhood," Isaac said.

The name of the neighborhood is being changed from Sierra Oesta to Desert Meadows. Heroes United will hold a winter block party there in December.

The group is also collecting donations so the project can continue. Those interested in donating may do so here.

Copyright 2014 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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